Doing youth ministry during a pandemic

Steve Argue, PhD | Mar 13, 2020

We’re betting that “social distancing” will be the term of 2020. And as we’ve been working on this blog post in each of our own private spaces, separated from one another, we’ve been thinking about what youth ministry looks like during a pandemic.

This whole experience highlights how connected we all are.

How our choices impact others.

How, in a time when we’re asked to distance ourselves, we crave connection.

For our young people, this may add a greater level of anxiety, too. While getting extra days off of school may sound fun at first, it does bring big questions about teaching and learning modalities, sadness over sports and events being cancelled, challenging family logistics, and lowgrade uncertainty that puts everyone on edge.

We imagine that your youth ministries and churches are making big decisions right now.

How do we connect with our people without gathering?
What are the needs of our teenagers and their families?
How do we support college students coming home?
What support do our families need?

And you’re probably asking questions about your own safety, and that of your own friends and family members.

There are lots of ways we can address this, but we thought we would take this moment to say: youth leaders, we believe in you.

In some ways, you were made for this moment. This is your chance to do what you do best: innovatively care for your young people and their families. Strangely, you don’t have to worry about that weekly programming—perhaps for the first time ever. So use this time to creatively connect with your students. Here are some questions we know you’re thinking. Let’s say them out loud:

Tweet this: Youth leaders, this is your chance to do what you do best: innovatively care for young people and their families. You were made for this moment.

What do my students need from me right now?

You are a consistent voice in their lives. Now is not the time to be silent just because the program has stopped. What words might they need to hear from you? Encouragement, assurance, a prayer from you? Go there with them. Let them know that though they’re socially distanced they are not relationally-distanced.

What resources do my students need?

This is a time when your students may need some hand-holds to navigate this experience. How might you help them deal with fear, grief, the unknown, family relationships, friendships, etc? How might you help them talk with God?

How might I still minister to my students beyond youth group programming?

Here’s where you’re on the leading edge. Likely, you already have some tech-savvy strategies to stay connected with your students. How might you leverage your skills to provide connection, conversation, and care?

What if you ...

  • Set up a dedicated blog or group for students to share their thoughts and pray for each other?

  • Create a space where your group could pray for the world and those impacted by this event (the poor, the marginalized, the most vulnerable)?

  • Consider ways to support the most vulnerable in your faith community—the elderly. How might you encourage them and provide for them? What might it feel like to be especially impacted by this disease?

  • Email questions to parents that they can discuss with their kids along with a prayer they can pray together?

  • Set up up a dedicated group video meeting to talk with students?

  • Give your volunteers online tools to continue to disciple their students (and for you to check in with them)?

Where do I need to grow and be surprised?

We have found in our own online training at Fuller Seminary that these platforms often allow the quieter students, the internal processers, and the writers to have more space for their voices to be heard. Perhaps new modes of connection will surprise us. Maybe it will challenge us to reflect on our own leadership strengths and weaknesses. May we have the courage to both lead and learn ourselves.

We at FYI want you all to know that we believe in you and in the important work you are doing.

We will continue to provide the best resources we can to help you leverage your youth ministry superpowers.

And we want to encourage you to help one another. We’ll be posting questions and prompts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter this week to help you share your ideas. Tell us what you’re doing and trying (don’t forget to tag us and use the hashtag #stayconnected so we can find you)—and we’ll pass along your innovative and thoughtful approaches. Let’s advocate for our young people in their ongoing quests to be faithful in this season. We can’t wait to read what you share!

Tweet this: How is your ministry serving young people even when the building is closed? Tell us what you’re doing and trying so we can encourage one another to #stayconnected.
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Steve Argue, PhD

Steven Argue, PhD (Michigan State University) is the Applied Research Strategist for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and Associate Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Steve researches, speaks, and writes on adolescent and emerging adult spirituality. He has served as a pastor on the Lead Team at Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI), coaches and trains church leaders and volunteers, and has been invested in youth ministry conversation for over 20 years. Steve is the coauthor and contributor of a number of books, including Growing With, 18 Plus: Parenting Your Emerging Adult, and Joy: A Guide for Youth Ministry.


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